Dave Tuley's-Vegas Beat
LAS VEGAS – I know horse racing isn't for everyone.
It takes a lot of work to follow the sport and to handicap the races. If you're concentrating on one track (and familiarity can breed success just as it does in sports betting), there's a lot of dead time between races, even compared to the NFL where you have a scoring play, then they go to commercial for the obligatory instant-replay booth review, then you get to see the exciting extra-point attempt, then you sometimes get more commercials, then you see a kickoff into the end zone, and maybe even more commercials before you see a play from scrimmage.
But I tell people all the time that if you're trying to make money at sports gambling that you're missing out on a lot of opportunities if you ignore horse racing. If you think you can make a lot by hitting football parlays, you need to look at the payoffs for exactas, trifectas, superfectas and multi-race bets like the pick 3, pick 4 and pick 6. And a lot of these can be hit with much less money invested.
And even if you still say you can't devote the time the 365 days a year or even the weekends, the Breeders' Cup -- being held this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 1-2, at Santa Anita Park in Southern California – is the perfect time to get involved. The BC used to be called horse racing's championship day, but now it's a two-day event but it still brings the top horses from all over the world.
We've seen time and time again over the years where longshots have come in, paying big money to win and even bigger money if you could connect the dots in single-race exotic wagers or across several races. The reason is obvious: with all these top horses coming together, there's inevitably going to be quality horses that go off at higher odds than their true odds. The public bets down the presumed favorites and they get bet down (often still going off at higher odds than they do when facing lesser competition, so it looks like value on them), but these other ignored horses drift higher.
I've written for Daily Racing Form since 2000, but I still wouldn't call myself a horse racing expert. But I know value when I see it and it's led to a lot of success in the Breeders' Cup over the years. Since picking every BC race since 1999, I've shown a better than 50% return on investment ($3.14 for every $2 wagered) with my top picks
Last year, I blanked on all 15 races, but that's going to happen sometimes when playing longshots. But on Friday, four of the six winners paid more than $20 to win on a $2 bet with only one favorite winning, while on Saturday there were $20 or more winners in six of the nine races with three favorites winning. So, even though I had a losing day, it still reinforced that I was approaching the races the right way. I just wasn't landing on the right price horses, but I'll continue to try as that's where the payoffs are.
Let's take a look at the main event, the BC Classic on Saturday and another example of some of those hidden value plays that are out there in the Breeders' Cup.
The $5 million Classic is the last race of the weekend (Saturday's race 12 at Santa Anita in your program) and usually determines the Horse of the Year. This year's field is as evenly matched as I remember seeing and I wouldn't be shocked if any of the 12 horses won. The 8-5 morning-line favorite is Game on Dude, who lost as the favorite in last year's Classic but has won his six races since then. So, I understand him being the favorite, but 8-5 seems ridiculously low. His challengers include Mucho Macho Man (winner of the Grade 1 Awesome Again over this same track) at 5-1, Fort Larned (the defending BC Classic champ) at 6-1, Palace Malice (Belmont winner) at 10-1, Declaration of War (multiple Group 1 winner in England) at 10-1, Will Take Charge (Travers winner) at 12-1, Flat Out (who has never been double-digit odds in his stellar career) at 12-1, among others.
It's bound to happen that one or several of these are going to get ignored by the public in the wagering and go off even higher than the perceived value they have now. For the record, the horse I'm picking is Fort Larned as I like horses that have proven they can win on racing's biggest stage (and I believe the human connections also know that thrill and aim specifically for the BC to do it again).
The other race I'll mention is the BC Juvenile Turf (the second BC race to be run Friday and the seventh race on the Santa Anita card). Bashart is one of the top choices in the race at 6-1 on the morning line and would be even lower if she hadn't finished second in her last prep race, the Grade 3 Bourbon at Keeneland on Oct. 6. Poker Player won that race as a 20-1 longshot and Bon Accord was third, just a nose behind Bashart. So what are their odds? Poker Player is 12-1 and Bon Accord is 20-1. I understand that a horse's overall resume will take precedence over a single race (and that the Bourbon was taken off the turf and run on the main track), but you can see how these horses that were pretty much on even terms less than a month ago are being offered at very different odds.
So those are the types of things I'm looking for in finding those value plays. Do yourself a favor and take a look at the Breeders' Cup this weekend. I hope to see you at the windows cashing those tickets.
Dave Tuley is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Las Vegas race & sports beat since 1998, first for the GamingToday newspaper in Vegas and has written for Daily Racing Form since 2000. Tuley started his own website, ViewFromVegas.com, in 2007 and has written for other websites, including ESPN.com. In 2006, he won "Best News Story" by the Professional Football Writers of America, the only time a gambling story has won a PFWA award. Tuley, 47, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is married with children in Vegas. His roots can be seen in the names of his three children: daughters Jordyn and Peyton (named for Walter Payton, not Peyton Manning) and son Maddux. Dave can be followed on Twitter @ViewFromVegas.